Noooooooooo! Not another Cville Bypass!

State Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, has filed a resolution and budget amendment to study building an eastern bypass around U.S. 29 around Charlottesville, reports the Daily Progress. During the McDonnell administration, Charlottesville residents managed to kill a proposed $230 million western bypass around the city in favor of making extensive improvements to U.S. 29 itself. Now Peake wants to try building a bypass around the eastern side of Charlottesville. Danville built a bypass and Lynchburg built one, he says, and it’s reasonable to ask Charlottesville to build one, too.

I understand Lynchburg’s fixation on the Charlottesville bypass. Back in the days when interstate highways were being mapped out, Lynchburg drew the short stick and got… bypassed. U.S. 29, a state highway, became its major industrial access corridor. But local land use decisions in Charlottesville and Albemarle County gunked up the highway with shopping centers, malls, stop lights, curb cuts, and other encumbrances. U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville became, in essence, a suburbified Main Street at the expense of travelers passing through. Lynchburg residents had every right to complain.

But $230 million is a lot of money, and analysis showed that construction of a bypass, which would circumvent only a fraction of the congestion, would save only a few minutes in travel time. The Virginia Department of Transportation instead invested in the money spot improvements that, along with stoplight synchronization, have eased congestion somewhat.

Enough time has passed, however, that Peake wants to try again, this time exploring the potential for a bypass east of the city.

This proposal won’t fly any more than a western bypass. For starters, an eastern bypass would be longer, hence more expensive. Second, most Charlottesville-Albemarle residents don’t want a bypass, period, they will oppose it with every fiber of their being, and the politics will be just as ugly this time around as it was for the western bypass.

Third, Peake is overlooking an emerging threat to travel times on U.S. 29 — the gunking up of the entire highway between Charlottesville, Warrenton and Northern Virginia. As the Northern Virginia development blob penetrates ever deeper into the rural hinterlands, the highway is attracting more exurban-style development. It seems as if a new stoplight is added with every passing year. While the stoplights tend to be miles apart, the sheer number of delays are equivalent to what travelers encounter in Charlottesville.

Peake and his fellow Lynchburgers should fear the stroadification of the entire highway north of Charlottesville. (Stroads are dysfunctional street-road hybrids, which U.S. 29 is becoming.) Instead of pushing for an expensive, unpopular bypass, he should work on legislation that safeguards the integrity of the remaining highway portion of U.S. 29 by limiting direct access to it.

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23 responses to “Noooooooooo! Not another Cville Bypass!”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This is a horrid proposal. I’d waste vast sums for no discernible, much less legitimate, advantage. It would ruin historic central Virginia, ripping out the region’s soul, like draining Virginia’s Tidewater marshes for more strip shopping centers.

    Sadly, Virginia’s 2oth century showed its political class all to willing to gladly do such things if only to put a few bucks in their pockets. These were not Virginia Gentlemen of yore.

    Excuse the French, but only a vulgarity works here. Image you invite all your neighbors over to your place for an outdoor barbecue to celebrate your daughters 10th birthday and one of your adult guests won’t stop trying to piss up one of the two ropes holding your daughter’s swing that dangles from her backyard swing.

    There in Central Virginia, including east of C’ville, like in that backyard, the geography does not work, never has, and never will, so at some point to keep trying is rude to the point of perverse.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “one of your adult guests won’t stop trying to piss up one of the two ropes holding your daughter’s swing that dangles from her backyard TREE.”

  2. I drive that corridor from Culpeper to Lynchburg all the time. The facts are: 1. The corridor needs an interstate-quality solution the entire distance, to connect with the traffic from the similar improvements in NC to northern VA. Portions of the corridor have been fixed, but the entire distance needs a continuing fix. 2. It will only get harder to do. Stake it out now. Let land use decisions build around it, not prevent it. 3. Virginia must reject the nihilism of the likes of Montgomery County, Maryland, where local anti-growth sentiment has attempted to thwart the consequences of economic prosperity and population growth without accomplishing anything but forcing inevitable transportation improvements to cost many, many times what they would have cost had they been laid out decades ago rather than retrofitted. It won’t be pretty, but it is necessary.

  3. NO, NO , NO!!! No bypass around any portion of C-Ville. I much prefer keeping the Mayor and City Council bottled up within the city limits so as to prevent their damaging any other jurisdictions. 29 North acts as a prison wall and keeps the Commonwealth safe from the C-Ville inmates.

  4. LocalGovGuy Avatar

    Let’s not forget that Lynchburg/Campbell County have implemented the exact same stroadification in their own neck of the woods.

    When you travel 29 North, there is a Foster’s Fuel station on your right on 29 near Rustburg. From that gas station to the city limits of Lynchburg? It’s almost as bad as 29 is in Albemarle/Charlottesville. There are either 4 or 5 stoplights on a very small stretch of 29. And there’s no study of a bypass of that stroad being proposed…

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      LocalGovGuy is exactly correct. While there are SOME bypass around Lynchburg.. it’s not around all of it… and “stroadtification” in Lynchburg is not only rampant but this is the 3RD “bypass” … if I recall correctly.

      The day of new interstates is pretty much done…

      the area east of Charlottesville is the land of the moneyed gentry and I’m not talking about folks with a couple million… those farms are owned by billionaires… and they will point out that they already paid their dues with I-64!!!

      Even if you somehow “fixed” Charlottesville.. has anyone traveled US 29 north and south of Cville? It’s a joke to think you’d not have to do a major re-do of the current US-29 which is simply nowhere near Interstate grade even though it’s four lane – it’s narrow and there a gazillion driveway entrances… thousands of places that will have to have a new service road or similar.

      In the current funding environment… I just don’t see that happening.

      and yes.. we travel Rt-29 from Cville all the way to Greensboro and another hour south of there as US-220/I-73. The area of Rt-29 10 miles north of Greesnboro all the way to where it intersects I-40 is as much a mess as Charlottesville… It’s 4-lane but it’s not limited access.. there _many_ surface streets that directly connect to Rt-29 … from the urbanized area that lines both sides of Rt-29 …

      It’s almost impossible to take a current road like US-29 and convert it into a full-limited-access Interstate. Even in the areas that Rt-29 now goes around Lynchburg and Danville.. it has at-grade roads directly connecting …

      It would be a MASSIVE undertaking to try to convert US-29 to a full-up interstate from NoVa to NC… just never going to happen.

    2. Well, how come NC can do it, but VA can’t?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        well, a lot more rural land without landed gentry or NIMBY exurban commuters!

        but US 29 is not an interstate-grade road even when 4-laned… except down around Lynchburg and Danville and even then the part of it in Lynchburg itself is a mess…

        A bypass around Cville will not make the rest of Rt29 an interstate-grade road… you drive rt 29.. think of the part south of Cville to Lovingston… do you think that is an Interstate-grade road? Remember all the driveway entrances and 600-series roads that connect? What would you do with them? What would you do with all the hills and curves ?

        You’d have to completely rebuild it AND add services roads and interchanges to connect to the service roads or some kind of access management…

        Rt 29 North of Cvile has simliar issues with driveways and state roads connecting all along it.

        I’d quess that to completely upgrade rt 29 in Va to some level of interstate grade would cost 4-5 billion dollars..

        you’d have to raise the gas tax on all Virginians a dime or more to pay for it or convert it to a tolled facility.

        they need to do something about I-64 east of Richmond before they do Rt 29 – it’s as bad as I-81 with it’s two lanes.

  5. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    It amazes me the resilience of such bad ideas. I agree with Reed about 20th Century American leaders, but would add in those of the 21st century. They all seem to have internalized the sayings, “nothing succeeds like failure” and “the definition of insanity is doing the same wrong thing over and over and expecting a different result”! If they were World War I generals they would now be ordering yet more waves of infantry to charge the hot barrels of opposing machine guns and massed artillery. When will they ever learn? Hmmm…maybe we could somehow invoke the 25th Amendment and sweep them all out on grounds of mental incapacitation!



  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Of course to be honest and fair… those of us who NOW benefit from the Interstate highways already built… have some level of hypocrisy in opposing more.. no?

  7. I will happily concede it’s an unpopular idea, and one that’s been pursued in highly unpopular ways, some of which have been rejected for good reasons. But let me emphasize two words: necessary, and inevitable. If these do NOT apply to bypassing (or converting to limited access) the entire US 29 corridor, show me! Otherwise, don’t tell me how ugly it will be; tell me how else you will accomplish this than by comprehensive planning as early as possible.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I agree with Larry’s comment a 1:52 p.m among other nay saying.

    In addition and as Jim alluded to, building another Interstate feeder into northern Virginia is certifiable maddest akin to that of a rabid wolf. Which affliction is quite prevalent among certain of the ruling class in Virginia today, so unfortunately those folks can’t be trusted with Interstate solutions anywhere in state absent outside adult and sane supervision.

    Virginia needs to come up with a new paradigm solution for Rt 29 and its ilk. Some of these we discussed early on here at Bacon’s Rebellion. Ideas like cluster densities with transfer of development rights, a rural smart growth that allows for development along more rural roads, that eat and contain traffic.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      In my comment above I used the word Interstate too loosely. I should have said in this instance “inter-regional and interstate with a small i.” Of course, in the case of Route 29, we have a historic interstate road that runs for more that 1000 miles from Florida to just south of Baltimore, a historic road that many want to become an Interstate. Perhaps, in practical affect today, one can say that Virginia Rt 29 serves as much an inter-regional road as it does interstate road. And it is for sure that this kind of inter-regional road is the kind that Virginia’s culture of planning, lay-out and roadside development has been absolutely horrid, endless iterations of the old Rt 1 trashy strip clutter I remember so well from Fredericksburg to DC.

      I also remember clear as yesterday when Route 29 went suddenly from a two lane road to a four lane highway. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I spend numerous summers at our family vacation place that was the last house on the Buckland Road on Broad Run with the historic old grist mill, mill race, and historic oak tree in our yard on Broad Run said to be 300 years old. Maybe ten houses down the lane from our Buckland farm, the Buckland Road exited out onto Rt 29 east to Haymarket and west to Warrenton.

      Even back then the enlargement of Rt. 29 from two to four lanes made a dramatic impact on ones senses going in and out of that wonderful place called Buckland. That enlargement to four lanes also was the start of the trashing up of Rd 29 west of Massassas all the way to Warrenton and then on to Culpepper, a full decade before that trashing up of Rt. 29 north, Barracks Road and related junk, outside of Charlottesville.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    all water under the bridge now and probably not going back.

    no bridge over the Potomac

    no outer belt…

    no east bypass of DC…

    no west bypass of DC

    no new dual I-95 corridor or more lanes that are not HOT.

    no new lanes for I-81 that are desperately needed for the hill sections
    where trucks double up…

    I’m trying to remember the last Interstate in the Mid-Atlantic that was built recently…

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    We take Rt29 as an alternative to I-95 south. It has nowhere near the traffic that I-95 does… even on holiday periods.. so I don’t see how it would be
    justified from a traffic demand perspective anyhow…

    Lynchburg wants it for Economic Development not traffic “relief”.

    From that perspective, it’s no different than that pumped storage boondoggle if the reason for improving 29 is to benefit Lynchburg economically…

    1. We completely agree, it’s economic development driving Lynchburg’s concern. And when heading to Charlotte and beyond, I take the same route — with my own variation around Charlottesville. But what is the best way to solve the commercial and passenger car congestion on I-81 — double its size, build an alternative to take the pressure off, or do nothing? Hint: the economy of the State can’t afford option 3.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        We do a “variation” where Rt-29 hits I-40… that’s a mess.

        re: ” solve the commercial and passenger car congestion”.

        well… there’s not much on Rt 29 SOUTH of Cville.. less familiar north of Cville but suspect you start getting into NoVa commuting traffic.

        and that’s the problem. Say you want to “help” that situation in the NoVa region and you build new roads or add lanes to existing roads -what happens? Basically you encourage more SOLO commuting and they take up whatever new capacity is available in rapid fashion.

        So the only solution for urbanized area job commuting is tolls .. any other option just increases the amount of people who want to solo commute.

        Trucks are , in those areas, more collateral damage than a root cause.

        out of region people are just flat screwed unless there are tolls which they will gladly pay to get through the hellhole of Washington (or far that matter many other urbanized areas with great numbers of exurban commuters).

        I-81 is a different story. There the trucks are clearly the problem and a 3rd lane is desperately needed and again.. I think a lot of folks would gladly pay a toll to not get stuck multiple times, each at 30 minutes behind a “truck train blocker” … downright dangerous when you mix patient people with impatient people trying to scoot through the small “windows” where there is a passing lane.

        Lynchburg apparently thinks increased traffic will “help” them economically but I’m not sure if they are thinking of passenger cars or trucks. Either way – as you know – Lynchburg is as much a mess as Cville… from Lynchburg near the airport all the way down to Rustburg.

        I’d say when Lynchburg gets that part fixed they can start wacking on Cville with a lot more virtue.

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Acbar and Larry are talking sense. State Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg is talking nonsense. His proposal compounds failure, as proven time and again for hundreds of years.

    River gorges do not build gardens, they destroy land. Acbar and Larry suggest thinking in new ways that address old and neglected realities in ways long forgotten and neglected. Cars destroyed our memories. Cars and trucks gave us a false sense of power.

    Streams, runs, and creeks build self sustaining gardens. This is the lesson of Buckland. It is a lesson we’ve long forgotten. The problem is not solved by roads. The problem is solved by building communities that leverages off of geography as it is enhanced and magnified by roads the serve geography is lieu of destroying it.

    Most importantly solutions are holistic. All else is snake oil.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’d improve US 29 south of Charlottesville especially where it’s narrow and winds like a snake up and down and around curves… and I’d get rid of some of those blind crossovers…… Not sure what to do about the driveway entrances….they are incompatible with cars and trucks traveling at 65mph which is what they do where the speed limit if 55 and 60.

    They DO NEED to fix I-81 and I-64 where they are two lanes – even around Charlottesville you get too many left-lane-blockers and when that happens the more impatient will try to pass on the right then shoehorn themselves back in the passing lane that’s become a ‘train’.

    So I’m not opposed to roads even more interstates – but interstates do permanently change how the surrounding land and settlements “work” , no question. In a lot of places – like Fredericksburg but most of the smaller towns along the interstates -the interstate becomes co-opted as a “local” road if there are two or more exits. you can see this when someone gets on at one ramp and gets off at the next ramp.

    So it’s a question of the lesser evil I guess but todays Interstate highways did what earlier “interstate” highways like RT 29 FAILED to do which was allow people to travel point to point without having to go through every city and town in between – like Charlottesville and Lynchburg AND Warrenton AND Culpeper – and that brought on the bypasses EXCEPT for Charlottesville .

    Robert Moses was a famous transportation engineer who believed that cities should be fully equipped transportation-wise… rail, roads, subway, etc

    He would run limited access, elevated freeways right through the city. He did that with heavy rail also on elevated tracks and those elevated tracks now constitute a vitally-needed infrastructure in places like New York and Chicago and other places.. the difference is a heavy rail uses one or two tracks and limited access highways uses 5 times as much corridor.

    Anyhow, I do believe in roads.. and interstates and do agree that we have never got the land-use planning “right” AND also agree they forever change the land… but like sewage treatment plants and electrical and cell phone towers, etc.. they constitute civilization today – as we know it – and they denote the stark difference between health and prosperous places and 3rd world places.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    Here’s an interesting article – that touches on the dichotomy between interstate highways and localities that would be impacted by a major interstate:

    ” After 61 Years, America’s Busiest Highway Is Almost Complete
    An infamous gap in Interstate 95 will finally be closed this summer.”

    1. Thanks for the link, LG — this missing piece of I-95 around Princeton NJ has been an embarrassment for decades, and I’ve mentioned it myself as an example of poor planning and lack of political will. And now they are going to “complete” it! How? By renaming some other existing roads “I -95.” This does nothing to alleviate the high volumes on the southern NJ Turnpike or help traffic feed into and take NYC’s outer beltway, I-287, around Manhatten. And as the article points out, all I-95 drivers will continue to be funneled through Brunswick and over the G W Bridge. What an insult, what a joke, on the rest of the East Coast! What an absence of federal followthrough for a federal interstate highway in the face of the State of NJ’s obstructionism because of a few well-connected State politicians.

  14. djrippert Avatar

    So, there was going to be a bypass until a “better idea” was put forth under some cutsey name I can’t remember. Let me guess – the cutsesy name idea was implemented and the problem persists? I mean – if the problem was fixed why would the guy from Lynchburg care?

    Finally, since when do localities get to veto The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond? I don’t recall a referendum on the $30 tolls on Rt 66 implemented by Comrade McAuliffe and the Socialist Party of Virginia.

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